Rangers in the 70s

24 Nov 2015 in Heritage

A look back at the Rangers history during a time of flared trousers, colour TVs and the introduction to decimal

Rangers were to become members of the newly formed Pennine League in the early days of BARLA and success came early under the direction of Coach, Johnny Noon. A member of the famous professional Oldham side of the fifties, Noon proved his coaching ability with Rochdale Hornets. A strong disciplinarian with a persona­lity that was somewhat larger than life, Johnny Noon commanded the same amount of respect enjoyed by his predecessors, Baker and Taylor. Other professionals in Denis Maders, Colin Smith and the previous Saddleworth player Tony Finan, joined the club — which already contained very able players in Dave Tyrrell, Norman Widdall, Dave Kershaw, Peter Kearns and Allan Johnson who had graduated through the under-19s and more mature players like Brian Robin­son, Jimmy Whittaker and Paul Harris. A bonus was the conversion from soccer of Dave Harrop, introduced to the club by Johnny Noon him­self.

Saddleworth finished in "the top 4" of the 1969 - 70 joint Huddersfield and Halifax League. They beat Mayfield in the championship semi final by 23 points to 9, "in a game that was so clean that it refereed itself (Huddersfield Examiner). The final at Fartown was lost to St. Joseph's by 23 points to 9 (try from Kearns, 3 goals from Finan). That same day the young Dai Evans played for Fitton Hill under-19 in the youth final, the "curtain-raiser" to the open-age final.

The 1970 - 71 season produced four trophies, including Standard Cup, Holliday Cup and the Huddersfield and Halifax Championship. Saddle-worth also reached the semi-final of the York­shire Cup, losing to B.O.C.M. (Hull).. St. Annes were the opposition, going down by 20 points to 8. Peter Moore with two tries won the Ben Powell Trophy. The game was reputed to be closer than the scoreline suggested, with St. Annes producing some very effective rugby. However, "all too often their poor handling wasted easy chances. The main difference be­tween the sides was Rangers' ability to work as a team and the greater fitness they seemed to have gained, thanks to the coaching of former Oldham and Rochdale Hornets star, John Noon" (Oldham Chronicle report).

The Holliday Cup at Fartown was against Waterhead, Saddleworth winning by 16 points to 11, after losing at half-time by 2 points to 9. Tony Finan kicked five goals, one being a magni­ficent penalty from the halfway line. He also made the break that put Colin Smith through for a try. Peter Kearns scored the other try.

The Huddersfield and Halifax Championship Final at Fartown was against Mayfield. The Saddleworth team was identical to the Standard Cup squad except for one — Peter Bamford was a substitute along with Dave Kershaw. The result was an 8 points all draw. Mayfiefd obviously had their chances. They led 8 points to nil at half-time and in the last minute their winger sprinted the length of the field before being overhauled yards from the line. The replay was at Under-bank, Saddleworth running out winners by 13 points to 7.

Further Standard Cup successes came in 1975 - 76 and 1979 – 80. Waterhead were again the losing opponents, by 16 points to 4. The match was a personal success for Dai Evans who won the Ben Powell Trophy and also for Dave Cassells who "swung the match in Rangers' favour with two devastating examples of his footballing brain" — "delayed his pass to Royales to perfection" . . . and "seeing Royales outside him and the cover closing that way, stumbling forward, managed to throw a great pass inside and hooker Norman Widdall backed up superbly to dive over for a try" (Oldham Chronicle report).

In the 1979 - 80 Saddleworth ran out winners against St. Annes by 13 points to 8. Sean Gartland won the Ben Powell Trophy. The success was founded on more consistent forward play and once Saddleworth got their noses in front, apart from the odd awkward moment, the result was never in doubt (tries Hayes, Barrow; dropped goal Evans; goals Barrow [3])

Saddleworth had to wait until the 1977 - 78 season before they secured a further league title. They then finished top of the first division of the Pennine League and in the same season reached the final of the Standard Cup once more. Although some of the old guard like hooker Norman Widdall remained there was evidence of a new generation coming through. A young Paddy Kirwan had turned out in the first round defeat of St Annes and although Rangers went down to Waterhead in the Oldham League Cup Final, their late consolation try through Wilson was set up by the equally young Terry Flanagan. Both players were featuring in the Rangers youth set up of the time in a team that, managed by Brian Gartland, was about to send them and several others to distinguished careers in the professional game. 

Back at Rangers, however, harder times were following and as the decade ended, the first team was relegated from the top division of The Pennine League.


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